Bridge exec testifies to signing off on false N.J. traffic story
NEWARK, N.J. — The head of the agency that operates the George Washington Bridge testified Wednesday that a former colleague charged with causing gridlock for political retribution tried to persuade him to keep traffic lanes closed because it was “important to Trenton,” which he took to mean Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s office.
Patrick Foye later ac- knowledged during crossexamination he approved sending news releases promoting a false story about the traffic jams.
Foye’s testimony put the focus on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge and New York-area airports, tunnels, transit hubs and the World Trade Center.
Foye, the agency’s executive director, put a stop to the four days of September 2013 traffic jams in Fort Lee that the government has charged were part of a political vendetta against the town’s Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie for re-election.
Foye described ordering the reopening of the lanes on Sept. 13, 2013, after receiving reports of gridlock for days. Later that day, he testified, he met twice with deputy executive director Bill Baroni, Christie’s top appointee to the agency.
Baroni and Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, are accused of reducing access lanes to the bridge and face fraud, conspiracy and civil rights charges. They have pleaded not guilty.
Baroni asked Foye to close the lanes again because it was “important to Trenton,” Foye testified. Foye also testified Baroni told him Christie’s senior staff had been briefed.
Christie isn’t charged and has denied knowledge of the plan until well after it was put into action. However, prosecutors said Monday that jurors would hear testimony that people bragged about the scheme to Christie on the third day of the four days of closures.
Defense attorneys tried to show that Foye knew about the closures earlier than he said. Pressed by attorney Michael Critchley, representing Kelly, Foye admitted approving shortly after the closures news releases that he knew outlined a false narrative — that the reduction of bridge access lanes in Fort Lee was part of a traffic study.
“When the buck came to you, you allowed a false press release to go out?” Critchley asked.
“The statement wasn’t true. I let it go out, yes,” Foye responded.
Patrick Foye testifies Wednesday in Newark, N.J.